YouGov’s weekly results for the Sunday Times are now up online here. Current voting intentions are CON 31%, LAB 42%, LDEM 12%, UKIP 11% – typical of late, and no signs of any “Thatcher effect”, positive or negative.
46% of people think Thatcher was a great (20%) or good (26%) Prime Minister, compared to 35% who think she was a poor (9%) or terrible (26%) Prime Minister. Only 10% said she was just average. For what it’s worth these figures are a bit more negative than when YouGov asked the same question for the Sun at the start of the week – could be people less willing to be negative when the person being asked about has only just died, or the coverage grating on people’s nerves, or just normal sample variation. We can’t tell.
How much Thatcher divides opinion is apparent when you compare here to other past Prime Minister. She is rated more positively than Blair, Brown and Major, but more striking is how opinions on her are more extreme – many people say either great or terrible (46% between them), where with other recent PMs opinion tends to cluster around the mid-point.
So for Tony Blair 30% thought he was good, 36% bad, 30% average (and only 4% and 14% said great or terrible). For Gordon Brown 10% said good, 62% bad, 25% average (2% great, 31% terrible). For John Major 12% said good, 35% bad, 40% average (1% great, 9% terrible). YouGov asked about Heath too… but got lots of don’t knows, showing the limitations of asking the general public about politicians who were in power before many of them were born. Asked which later Prime Minister can best claim to be the heir of Thatcher (a good or bad thing depending on your point of view!), 52% of people said either none of them or don’t know. Of those who did answer, David Cameron was the most common response with 23%.
People were somewhat more evenly split on whether Thatcher was good or bad for the country – 42% thought she was good, 38% bad. On balance people thought that she left a country that was better off, was more respected in the world and offered more opportunities for women. However, people also thought she left a country that was more divided and less equal. Overwhelmingly they thought she did not do enough to support areas where traditional mining and manufacturing industries were closed.
Asking about the specific policies Mrs Thatcher introduced in office there were very divided opinions. Large majorities (68%) thought she was right to use force to retake the Falklands and to get a rebate on Britain’s EEC contributions. Majorities of people thought it was right to introduce the right to buy (60%) and to take on the trade unions (55%). By 46% to 36% people also thought it was right to cut the top rate of income tax from 83% to 40%.
People were negative about the introduction of Section 28, prioritising inflation over unemployment, deregulating the City of London and privatising utilities like British Gas and British Telecom. By far the most negative reaction was to the Poll tax, which 68% of people thought was the wrong thing to do.
Moving on to the reactions to her death, on balance people support the BBC coverage of her death – 24% think it has been too positive, 16% too negative, 40% that they have got the balance about right. The decision to recall Parliament is seen as wrong by 49% of people compared to 35% who think it was right, and 53% think those Labour MPs who did not attend were right to say away. David Cameron’s own response is seen as appropriate – 47% think he has respondents in an appropriate and dignified way, as opposed to 28% who think he has tried to play her death for political advantage.
On the funeral, 8% of people think Thatcher should have been given a full state funeral, 42% that the ceremonial funeral she is being given is correct, 43% that she should have been given neither. The Queen’s decision to attend is seen as correct by 57% of people.
There is comparatively little support for any further commemoration. Only 29% would support a new statue of Thatcher in London (and only 18% a statue in Trafalgar Square) and only 17% would support renaming Port Stanley after her. However, there is also wide scale rejection of people who have organised parties to celebrate her death – only 14% of people think this is acceptable, 75% unacceptable (including a clear majority of Labour party supporters).